All ready for ANC’s historic Polokwane conference

2007-12-15 00:00

It’s all systems go this weekend for the long-awaited African National Congress (ANC’s)52nd national conference in Polokwane. The run up to the conference has been a rocky road marked by a bitter presidential succession battle between front-runners, current ANC president, Thabo Mbeki and his deputy Jacob Zuma.

Although indications from Provincial General Council elections held a few weeks ago are that Zuma is the leader of choice, delegates are set to vote again in a secret ballot at the conference,so anything can happen. The run up to the conference has been marked by allegations of vote-buying and that delegates have been offered money and positions in exchange for their votes. Such is the paranoia around this issue that provincial organisors are keeping mum about how they are getting to Polokwane and where they will be staying.

No matter what the outcome, analysts see it as a watershed event -the crossroads that will change the face of South African politics. Not only will a new leadership be elected within the ruling party, but new and adapted social, political and economic policies will be adopted. These will chart the course of the organisation for the next five years, until the next conference takes place.

Right now though, all minds are focussed on the logistics of the event, that has been dubbed the largest ANC elective conference in the history of the organisation. There will be 4 075 voting delegates in attendance. Also in attendance will be 450 non-voting delegates, 135 observers from allied organisations and 360 local and international guests. In addition there will be 200 support staff, 1000 service providers and about 700 national and international journalists covering the event.

Also present will be a large contingent of security personnel to ensure the safety of the high profile delegates, including government ministers and foreign diplomats. According to reports security presence will include the South African Defence force, the South African Police Service (SAPS), local municipal police and emergency and disaster service staff. The ANC itself will deploy 400 trained marshalls to act as guides, helping to usher delegates around the various venues at the conference centre, which is the University of the North, about 30km outside Polokwane.

The ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) this week declared its satisfaction that preparations are well in hand. In a statement this week the NEC said that work has been completed on the erection of the main conference structures, including the plenary venue, which seats 5000 people; the dining area which can serve 3000 people at a time and various structures for support services. An inspection of all the residences has been completed, and these are ready for occupation by delegates, all of whom will be arriving during the course of today. Delegates will receive their accreditation today as well, at a registration centre set up in an aircraft hangar at the Polokwane International Airport.

The NEC said it is confidant that all political preparations and logistical arrangements are in place for a productive and successful conference, one which will stand the organisation in good stead as it advances to its centenary in 2012.

Not so clear at this stage is how prepared is the city of Polokwane, for the invasion. According to reports the city is ready and has been gearing itself up for the conference, seen as one of the biggest events in its recent history. Business Day reports that an entrepreneurial spirit has emerged, with lodges and restuarants sprouting up to accomodate the influx of visitors. As a result of the high demand, accomodation and food prices in Polokwane have rocketed.

Christmas aside, all eyes will be focussed on Polokwane over the next four days for indications on the changing face of South Africa’s political landscape.

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